May 17, 2012

New fire station to enhance Fort’s firefighting mission

Story and photos by Natalie Lakosil
Staff Writer

Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, and The Elks Association’s Arizona Firefighter of the Year, Chris Mercer, cut the cake during Tuesday’s grand opening ceremony at Fire Station 2.

An official ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Tuesday officially marked the completion of Fort Huachuca’s new Fire Station 2. The Directorate of Emergency Services hosted the event.

More than 50 community members attended the ceremony, which took place at the new station on the corner of Squire and Irwin Streets.

The new fire station supports the fort’s structural and wildland firefighting capabilities. Tours were conducted following the ceremony.

The new fire station replaces the old Fire Station 2, a temporary building constructed in 1941 and was inefficient and inadequate for modern firefighting needs.

“We are moving from [what was to be a temporary] facility built in 1941, and the situation over there is for people living in single-element accommodations. The restrooms are built for one person, there is only one shower, and the kitchen is built for two people,” said Fire Chief Anthony Marra.

“Now we have a kitchen that is double in size with a huge stove, double fridge, everything they need,” he added.

Firefighters place a fire vehicle in its new quarters to mark the opening of the new fire station.

“Fort Huachuca is a unique place. We are doing a mission that’s a little bit different than other bases, we have wild [forest and desert] land, housing, a lot of students [and] a good amount of medical calls, so our department has really stepped up and we have done what we do the best,” Marra said.

The new facility, a $6.8 million complex, is a 16,000 square-foot, two-company fire station with a hose drying tower, wash rack, flammable storage, three drive-through parking stalls and individual dorm rooms to house up to 12 firefighters.

The hose drying tower on the east side of the building will allow fire crews to properly hang and dry fire hoses in lieu of the old method of laying them on the ground. It has a state-of-the-art kitchen and dining room that will double as a dayroom and training area. It will also be the new home of the Fort Huachuca Fire Prevention section that is now working out of the World War II-era facility.

The fire trucks stored in the old Station 2 will comfortably fit into the new station safely and with standard widths that meet Army safety and National Fire Protection Association standards.

Fire Station 2 will be self-sustaining by including a kitchen, physical fitness room, dayroom and larger separate bathrooms for male and female firefighters. A new state-of-the-art public address and alerting system has been installed and will alert firefighters to responses, no matter where they are in the station.

Fort Huachuca firefighter Tracy McGregor rings the bell inside the new fire station signaling its commissioning into service.

The new fire station has been outfitted with efficiencies such as LED lighting, a water recirculation system that will be used to wash the fire trucks, solar panels to generate power to heat water and a lighting system that automatically turns off lights in vacant rooms and offices.

“It’s great! It’s a lot newer than the old facility. It will be more relaxing for the firefighters; they will have more room to work with their equipment, and it’s easier to get around,” said Dan Wildermuth, Sierra Vista Citizen’s Fire Academy Associates, of Fire Station 2.

The old fire station will be demolished once firefighters occupy the new facility.

Fire Station 2 is a Military Construction Army project, which was initiated June 19, 2003. The project was funded as a fiscal 10 Congressional Add. The contract was awarded in September 2010. The building should be occupied by firefighters July 15, Marra said.

The Fort Huachuca Fire Department was also selected for four Installation Management Command Central Region’s nominations for the 2011 Army Fire and Emergency Services Awards Program. The categories are: Small Fire Department of the Year; Fire Prevention Program of the Year; Civilian Firefighter of the Year; and Firefighter Heroism Award which included firefighters Dave Rhodes, Chris Mercer, Adam Burgess and Anthony Crone.

“I think we went up against 30 or 40 other stations for these awards,” Marra said.

Mercer was also recognized at the ribbon cutting ceremony for his selection as the Arizona Elks Association Americanism Committee’s Firefighter of the Year.

Mercer was honored at the Elks’ State Convention on May 12, in Phoenix. The Americanism Committee will also be making a donation to the charity of Mercer’s choosing.

“I would also like to congratulate him on behalf of the Sierra Vista Elks Lodge #2065, Americanism Committee and the Arizona Elks Association,” said Bob Conte, chairman, Law Enforcement & Firefighter of the Year Award Dinner, who will serve as the convention escort for Mercer and his family.

This is his second year being nominated for the state award.

Mercer will now move on to the nationwide competition for the Elk’s Firefighter of the Year award.

“I am honored. It is a great department to work for, and I have been very happy about the opportunity I have been given. I really enjoy my job,” Mercer said.

Co-worker Josh Jimenez said, “It is a great achievement not only for him but for our whole fire department. He does a lot for the department. He does quite a few missions for us to be successful here, just his hard work and diligence paid off for him in receiving the award.

“He has reduced a lot of costs this year by doing some medical in-house training so we don’t have to bring in an outside person. He really helps the department,” Marra said of Mercer.

Fort Huachuca officials and members of the community cut the ribbon at the new Fire Station 2 on Tuesday. The station offers a variety of modern amenities not previously offered at the older station.

More than 50 people attended the Fort Huachuca Fire Station 2 ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday. Firefighters will be able to call the station ‘home’ in July when it is complete and outfitted.

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